Thursday, July 19, 2012

Final Reflections from Honduras: Hope in the Hills and Call Me, Maybe...

Tuesday morning began with a heart-wrenching, impromptu story from a local Honduran. He shared how he grew up in so much poverty and with so little assistance from the church that he thought "God loved the rich and did not care about the poor." His prayers seemed to fall on deaf ears when a child, as day after day not a single bag of corn was delivered by any sort of divine messenger.

So he decided to work his way out of poverty was more effective than spending time in church.

And he slowly has done just that.

This story put poverty in perspective for all of us gathered in the kitchen. So often short-term missions romanticize the poor with statements like, "they have so little but seem so happy" and "they have such a strong faith despite their circumstances." When our students heard this story they quickly learned that there is a deep darkness that hovers over poverty. The presence of God and the hope for all things to be made new are not always easy to discover in the wake of so much suffering.

But as one of our adult team members remarked, "there was hope today in the hills."

A two-and-a-half hour ride through the mountains landed us at a farm with a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and innovative and organic agricultural technology, e.g. stoves fueled by methane generated by pig manure. The family who lives on this farm is supported by the Raos Cooperative, a Fair Trade Certified organization whose primary harvest is coffee beans.

There is nothing like sipping a cup of joe on a Honduran hillside with a side of fried plantains.

After our visit to the plantation, we sat in on a presentation by the Director of Quality Control at the Raos office. He shared with us the ins and outs of the coffee industry and how they go to great lengths to assure justice in farmer's wages and responsiblity towards the environment. They do this while at the same time harvesting premium roast coffee that trumps anything our Seattle-based corporation produces.

Needless to say, Upon my return home I will be switching brands for my morning brew.

Our group was captivated by what goes on behind the scenes in regards to the food and coffee we purchase. We also were encouraged by organizations like Raos, and Heifer International as one of their partners, who have dramatically improved the lives of families represented by the one we met today.

This past week has been an emotional roller coaster. We have seen the depths of Rural and urban poverty and encountered brilliant witnesses to the kingdom of God alive and well through organizations like Association for a More Just Society and Heifer International. We have had conversations about partnership and contemplated what the word means for us as Honduran and American youth.

Yet for me the weekend could not have ended any better than it did. While one of our vans traveled to and from the plantation, accompanied by our friends from Peña de Horeb, I played D.J. One of the van members suggested we attempt to reproduce a youtube video gone viral. I was not sure if the choreography was possible or if our Honduran friends would be interested.

I could not have been wrong.

The result was potentially one of the better illustrations of our partnership. Over the course of four hours, we were able to create, to laugh, to sing, and to move in rhythm together. What seemed impossible in the beginning became more than possible in the end.

And it took a long time and a whole lot of patience.

I cannot be more excited for our Youth-to-Youth Missional Partnership in Honduras. While we have only just begun, we have certainly made great strides in new directions. Even more, we have started to share common understandings as they pertain to what partnership is really about.

"Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may become co-workers with the truth" (3 John 8).

I am hopeful for the years to come. Our students are eager for the future.

And so our our friends in Honduras who left us a note that concludes my reflections for this week:

"Espero, en lo personal que esta bonita amistad perdure por muchos años y que nuestros hijos tambien puedan compartirla!"

(I hope, personally that this beautiful friendship will endure for many years and that our children can share it.)